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Les Choristes

The French confection Les Choristes is now available on a skimpy, movie-only DVD —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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Austin fans, The Spy Who Shagged Me is funnier and better than the first movie!

Actually, I should say that I found the first movie to be mediocre. The concept was good and some jokes and scenes worked great, but the film itself fell apart because of all the dry spells between gags. Those spells were filled with observations on the late sixties, slavishly worked-in spy movie references, and plot.

This one is much funnier because it borrows the successful elements from the first and shuns what didn’t work. That means more jokes, lower-brow humor, more of that handsome Dr. Evil, and less plot. Mike Myers wrote the first film, and this time he was joined by newcomer Michael McCullers. Together, they seem to have worked out the kinks.

The film opens with Austin Powers (Mike Myers) leading the easy life with his wife Vanessa (Elizabeth Hurley) now that the evil Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) has been vanquished. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Powers, Dr. Evil has been thawing and plotting his revenge. Dr. Evil acquires a time machine and goes back in time to steal Austin Powers’ mojo.

Later, when Austin Powers... ahh, to heck with the plot summary. You will not care about, much less notice, the plot. There is just enough to keep the action moving and the jokes rolling in, and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

A comedy that makes me laugh out loud comes along once, maybe twice a year, and Shagged is one of them. The near-nudity gags from the original are repeated and expanded upon, and a new verbal gag using synonyms for “penis” is introduced (told you it was low-brow). Actually, both had my audience (okay, I admit, me too) laughing out loud. If there is a third Austin Powers movies, you can bet both gags will resurface.

Most importantly, Dr. Evil gets a lot more screen time than in the first movie. He steals the show as he works out his paternal feelings both for his son (Seth Green) and for his 1/8 size clone, Mini-Me (Verne Troyer). Dr. Evil and Mini-Me get the biggest, best-deserved laughs.

I would certainly recommend this movie (especially if you have an adolescent streak in you). As with most comedies, I would also recommend seeing it in a big crowd. The fuller the theater, the funnier the jokes.

But a few tell-tale signs indicate that it may not be destined for the next AFI top 100 list.

First is the caliber of the jokes. A few too many are grossout jokes. Myers plays a third character, Fat Bastard, an agent of Dr. Evil’s. Myers wears a fat suit like the one made for Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor. Naturally, since this is a comedy, we find out entirely too much about Bastard’s digestive system. As repulsed as I was, I have to admit I laughed. But I don’t know if I’ll be renting this movie when I have polite company over.

Second is the repetition of the jokes. Many of the funniest gags are repeated. Luckily, the latest round is always just a little funnier than the first round, but really, they’re the same gag, and if you didn’t like it the first time, you’ll just hate it the second time.

And finally, there are some references to Star Wars that play very well right now because we are swamped by “Phantom Menace” pool toys and galactic-mint Star Wars toothpaste. But in time, the Star Wars jokes won’t be quite so biting as they are now. Comedy that relies on parody and reference (like a lot of Zucker Brothers movies) is extremely chancy and very dated.

Based on these points, I would recommend seeing Shagged sooner rather than later. I think the longer the movie has been around, the less funny it will seem.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not panning Shagged. I actually had a lot of fun. But I do feel it’s necessary to temper my praise with a dose of reality.

But having hedged my review, let me close by saying that Austin Power: The Spy Who Shagged Me is a very funny movie, and is one of the few sequels to surpass its predecessor.